DIARY Ė ASCOT
Ė SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2009
Today was my first visit to Ascot of the current season.† Money is a little tighter this year, so I have to choose my fixtures with care.† However, Ascot is less than 40 miles away from home, entry prices are reasonable at £15 for a Saturday Grandstand ticket, and parking is free if I use the farthest facility.† Besides, both Katchit and Voy Por Ustedes were making their seasonable reappearances today.† Choc had a total of 4 rides at the fixture.
Okay, so I had a pretty bad cold, which took an age to come out, but with the help of a cold and flu remedy I didnít feel too ill and the fresh air would do me good, provided I didnít get drowned if the rain arrived earlier than forecast!† My voice tends to almost disappear when I get colds but, as my friend Denise was unable to take up my invitation to come to Ascot today, I wouldnít be required to hold any long conversations with anyone either!††
The gates were due to open at 10:45, so I left home at 09:55, having disguised myself as mini-Michelin woman Ė thatís 6 layers (thermal vest, camisole, long sleeve cotton top, jumper, cardigan and gillet) plus coat.† I took one of my lighter weight scarves and my mittens too.†
My route took me around the M25, along the M4, leaving at the Slough Central turning.† I headed through the outskirts of Windsor, past Legoland, to Ascot.† At Swinley Bottom, I turned left to reach Car Park 6.† Despite it being quite early Ė 10:50 Ė there were many cars already parked, and I was directed to park beneath the outstretched arms of a large cedar tree.† I was thus hoping that the breeze wouldnít get up, as Iíd prefer not to return to find that a branch had fallen and perhaps dented my car!†
Having pulled on my long brown boots, I trotted up the road to the ticket office.† No, perhaps trotted is not quite the word at present, as Iím still paranoid about slipping over on a damp pavement, so I donít walk as fast as I used to.† I entered the ticket office, purchased a grandstand ticket and headed for the turnstiles.† Once inside, I bought a programme and headed for the steppings above the Weighing Room to wait for the horses to arrive in preparation for the first race.†
Whilst I was waiting I noticed Christian Williams return from taking a jog around the course.† A little later, William Kennedy and a colleague, both dressed in jogging gear, also set off for the walkway out onto the course.† Luke Harvey was in attendance for At The Races and Lesley Graham and colleagues arrived to present the Channel 4 coverage too.
Choc was not riding in the first race of the day, which was due off at 12:20.† I remained on the steppings above the Parade Ring until the horses for this race were exiting onto the course. †I then walked through the grandstand concourse to reach the stands to view the race.† Thereís no point walking down to the rails at Ascot, as the steeplechase course runs inside the flat course and the railings, in the grandstand enclosure, are at the wrong level to get a good view of the proceedings!
The start of this race was in the side straight, heading immediately into Swinley Bottom.† The field was lead off by Peachey Moment, followed by Qianshan Leader, Possol and Arkose.† Bringing up the rear was Irish raider, Grangeclare Gold.† Peachey Moment had relinquished the lead to Qianshan Leader by the time they reached the first flight, but remained prominent.† South Leinster was a bit sketchy at the 2nd flight.
Oamaru Stone, ridden by Christian Williams, was not travelling as well as his jockey would have liked as they passed the stands for the first time.† The first of those prominent to drop back was Peachey Moment, and Oamaru Stone was soon struggling too.†
Possol led Qianshan Leader and Arkose around the final bend.† Possol, still travelling easily, ran on to beat Arkose by 9 lengths.† Back Exit and South Leinster dead-heated for 3rd. †Henry Daly hopes to aim Possol at this seasonís Grand National.
I returned to the steppings above the Weighing Room to see the horses arrive back in the Winnersí Enclosure.† It was then time for the 2nd race.† Again Choc had no ride in this race.†
Once the horses had exited from the Parade Ring I made my way through the grandstand concourse to the stands.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the straight leading to Swinley Bottom.† Initially Flaco didnít seem keen and was led in.† At the second attempt they were off.† River Ripples went into the lead, with the grey Pure Genius a close second, Senor Shane third.† The Brendan Powell trained Plane Painter blundered at the first, unseating Paul Carberry out of the side door.† The loose horse chased after the runners as they galloped around Swinley Bottom.† Flaco was pulling hard in rear.
Pure Genius took over the lead at the 4th fence.† Senor Shane was close up, jumping better than the leader.† The field was still closely packed as they headed towards Swinley Bottom for the 2nd occasion, the loose horse still in pursuit.† Pure Genius quickly dropped back and was pulled up.† Senor Shane assumed the lead, soon pursued by Skipperís Lad and Knighton Combe.† Senor Shane was challenged by the latter as they approached the penultimate fence.† The two horses collided in mid-air, both remaining on their feet but Senor Shane weakened from this point.†
Despite getting close to and clouting the last fence, Knighton Combe held on from a closing Skipperís Lad.† Senor Shane was only 5th at the line.†
In preparation for Chocís first ride of the afternoon, I returned to the Parade Ring, but positioned myself on the bridge above the walkway exit point.† From there I could view the horses arriving in the Winnersí Enclosure and see into the Weighing Room.†
I noticed a jockey sitting in one of a row of seats situated around the circumference of the Weighing Room and it suddenly dawned on me that it was Choc.† He was wearing his silk cap so I couldnít see his hair but, having earlier consulted the programme, I remembered the colours he was due to wear in the next race.† He was chatting to someone seated beside him whilst he was waiting for Alan King to arrive to collect the saddle, Choc having weighed out.† Cap now in hand, he stood up and briefly chatted to Alan when he arrived, before returning to the inner sanctum of the Locker Room.
It was now time for the 3rd race of the day, in which Choc would be riding the chestnut mare, Gold Reef.† The jockeys appeared in the Parade Ring, spoke with their respective owners and trainers, were legged-up and set off down the walkway to the course. †Once they had left the Paddock, I set off for the stands to watch the race.
The start of this race was over in the corner, running down into Swinley Bottom.† Then they were off.† Ambrose Princess led them away, followed by Speed Bonnie Boat, Zaffarella, Daraz Rose and Ravello Bay.† At the back were Easter Legend, which sported a broad white face and stockings on her rear legs, and Another Storm.† Choc aboard Gold Reef was travelling on the inside just in front of these.†
Zaffarella was jumping poorly and soon dropped back to dispute last place.† Choc made a little progress as they ran up the straight past the stands for the first time.† Having rounded Swinley Bottom for the second time, Gold Reef made steady progress into 3rd place, and was followed through by Easter Legend.†
Ambrose Princess led the field into the final straight, Choc pursuing her aboard Gold Reef.† Easter Legend was travelling well.† Ambrose Princess still held advantage at the last, but Easter Legend overtook her on the run-in to win by 1ľ lengths, Gold Reef was third by a head.† The Nicky Henderson trained Ravello Bay pulled up lame before 2 out.
I returned to the Parade Ring to watch Choc arrive back in the Winnersí Enclosure, unsaddle his mount and speak to connections.† He removed his helmet as he returned to the Weighing Room, he already had Ďhat-hairí!† As Choc wasnít riding in the 4th race, I remained at my vantage point until the horses exited the Parade Ring for the next race.
I walked through the grandstand to take up my position in the stands.† As I arrived there, AP McCoy and Felix De Giles were dropped off centre course having arrived hotfoot from Huntingdon.† They walked across the track on their way to the Weighing Room.†
The start of this race was in the back straight.† Then they were off.† The field was led away by Fix The Rib, from Santaís Son, Omeyade† and Qrackers.† Bringing up the rear was Lord Henry.†
In mid-field, Master Medic was soon ridden along.† Qrackers made a bad mistake at the 9th fence, catapulting his jockey up his neck and they soon pulled up.†
Fix The Rib was still leading from Master Medic, Oumeyade and Santaís Son, and had established a big lead turning into the final straight.† Despite Master Medic staying on under pressure, Fix The Rib held on to win by 4Ĺ lengths.
A victory for Jamie Moore, who had recently returned to riding having sustained a broken ankle in a fall at Southwell.
I returned to my vantage point above the walkway exit in preparation for the next race.† Jamie Moore came out to accept his memento as winning jockey and he was slightly lame at the walk.† Later in the afternoon I noticed Jamie jog in from the unsaddling area reserved for the unplaced horses, and noticed that he was still very lame at the faster pace!
Glancing across, I noticed that Choc and AP were sitting just inside the Weighing Room, chatting to each other, having weighed out.† Chocís saddle was placed on the seat beside him.† Alan King soon arrived, briefly chatted to AP, after which he set off for the saddling boxes, a saddle under each arm.††
Chocís mount in this race was Katchit, the former Champion Hurdler.† AP would be riding Alanís other runner, the JP McManus owned Karabak.† Choc met up with the owners in the Winnersí Enclosure area, later directing his group out into the main Parade Ring.† Once Choc and AP had been legged up and had exited the Parade Ring, I set off for the stands.
The start of this race was over in the far corner of the track.† Then they were off.† Confirmed front runner, Lough Derg, led the field away.† Today he was ridden by Richard Johnson, as Tom Scudamore was at Haydock to ride Madison Du Berlais in the Betfair Chase.† Time for Rupert was in second, with Elusive Dream third.† Last seasonís Triumph Hurdle winner, Zaynar, was in fourth, inside him was Choc aboard Katchit, with Karabak tracking Zaynar.† Straw Bear brought up the rear.
Katchit had improved into 3rd as they passed the winning post first time, but he made an uncharacteristic mistake when flattening the hurdle before Swinley Bottom.† Having led until shortly after this point, Lough Derg was headed by the strong travelling Zaynar, Karabak stalking them.† Turning in, Katchit was disputing fourth place with Red Moloney.††
Zaynar went on to win very impressively by 6 lengths from his nearest challenger, Karabak.† Red Moloney was 17 lengths further back in third, with Katchit 2ĺ lengths behind in 4th.
I returned to the Parade Ring to see Choc return to unsaddle Katchit.† Once heíd spoken with Alan and connections, Choc jogged back to the Weighing Room, eager to get changed in preparation for the next race.† I then returned to my vantage point above the walkway exit point.† Again I spotted Choc within the confines of the Weighing Room, in the pink, mauve and white colours of Sir Robert Ogden.† His ride in this race was Voy Por Ustedes.
Soon all the jockeys riding in the next race appeared in the Parade Ring, Choc heading across to meet up with Alan King and Barry Simpson, Sir Robertís Racing Manager.† On the big screen at the far end of the Parade Ring, the Betfair Chase was being broadcast from Haydock Park.† Choc, Alan and Barry were all showing an interest in the proceedings.† Even as the jockeys were exiting the Parade Ring, a number of them were glancing over at the screen (including Choc) to view the developing race.†
I remained Parade Ring side for a minute or two to discover the result of the Betfair event, as there was a photo-finish between Kauto Star and Imperial Commander.† The former seemingly the winner, until Imperial Commander rallied in the dying moments of the race to almost snatch victory, Kauto Star holding on by a nose.
I then proceeded through the grandstand to reach the steppings in order to watch the next race.† The horses were already well on their way to the start, which was at the beginning of the back straight.
Then they were off.† The grey, Monetís Garden, led them away, followed by Gwanako and Albertas Run.† Although starting off nearer the inside, Choc began to angle towards the outside of the field, Voy Por Ustedes making an error at the 3rd fence.† Unfortunately he appeared to get close to a number of his obstacles, although he did put in a fine leap at the fence in front of the stands.†
Medicinal was soon trailing the field.† Planet of Sound, ridden by Richard Johnson, made a bad mistake at the 9th fence and dropped back through the field.† Albertas Run with AP aboard took up the running at the 10th fence.† However, as the field turned into the final straight, 6 horses were in with a chance, APís mount still leading.† One of those 6, Gwanako, unshipped Christian Williams at the second last.†
Albertas Run ran on to win by 3 lengths from his nearest challenger, Planet of Sound.† Despite his poor show of jumping, Voy Por Ustedes finished 3rd, with Irish raider Schindlers Hunt in 4th.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see Choc return aboard Voy Por Ustedes, unsaddle, speak with Alan King and Barry Simpson and walk to the Weighing Room.
I remained on the steppings above the Weighing Room, as it was now too dark to take photos (hence there being none available of Choc aboard his final mount of the day, Mister Chancer).† When Choc came out into the Parade Ring he seemed a little lost at first, as he couldnít see Alan and the owners, despite them being quite close by ... perhaps he couldnít recognise them in the impending gloom!†††
Once the horses had exited onto the course, I set off for the stands for the final time.†
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight.† The field was slowly away, led off by This Masquerade, followed by Lush Life, Scampi Boy, Any The Wiser and Wyck Hill.† Choc and Mister Chancer were near the back, in rear was Lost Glory.†
By Swinley Bottom, Choc had dropped back to 2nd last.† The runners soon quickened, with the eventual winner, Dunraven Storm, taking over the lead over a furlong out, fighting off the challenge from the AP McCoy ridden Lush Life as they pulled away from the remainder of the field.† Choc had to push his mount from a long way out, but the horse responded, making steady progress up the home straight to finish a head 5th.† I think the horse will definitely improve for the run.††
Having finished in 5th position, Choc would have unsaddled in the area reserved for the unplaced horses.† I returned to the steppings above the Winnersí Enclosure to get my final glimpse of Choc for today and waited for him to appear through the walkway and return to the Weighing Room before setting off to collect my car.†
It was raining quite heavily now, light rain having started earlier in the afternoon.† I sheltered under my umbrella as I walked down through Ascot High Street to Car Park 6.† Having arrived at my car, I took a few minutes to eat a snack before starting my journey home.
I decided that I would avoid the M4/M25 so, after driving back through Windsor, I took the road through central Slough, and then headed for Stoke Poges and Gerrards Cross.† After that I went through Denham and Maple Cross, and on to Rickmansworth.† There was heavy traffic in Watford, as their football team must have been playing at home - I noticed a number of scarf bearing Hornetsí fans walking along the pavements.†
After a slight mishap in my direction finding, when I missed the underpass through Watford town centre, I ended up on the Hemel Hempstead road, where traffic was very slow moving indeed.† However, I re-directed myself along the A41 and then the A405 heading for St Albans.
I arrived home at 17:50.